$500 of Underwear

This is the holy grail jacket. I’m never going to need to buy one again.

A friend

Yeah, but it’ll last longer.

Me, justifying why I need a really expensive bag to my girlfriend

I just realized I own $500 of underwear…

Another friend

Being frugal means you generally buy cheap stuff, but sometimes you go off and do a cost-benefit analysis on something more expensive and figure you’re willing to pay a premium for quality, comfort, and/or life-expectancy. A good example is high quality underwear. Once you catch a whiff of the experience of wearing any of the Internet’s favorite premium briefs, you might find it hard to go back to the cheap-o multi-packs Mom used to buy you from Walmart and Bob’s Discount Clothing.

Here’s an example (inspired by true events):

Let’s say you want to own 10 pairs of briefs, and compare the costs of cheap-o briefs with those of Premium Brand A. Using example prices from the table below, you calculate that the premium you will pay is $120. You find this cost-benefit reasonable, and you’re able to justify it further by amortizing the cost across the 5-10 years that you expect briefs to last, so you go ahead and decide to buy a set of premium briefs.

Cheap-oPremium Brand A
Price per pair$3$15
Price for 10 pairs$30$150

This was a reasonable, controlled, and intentional use of your money. You looked at the costs, amortized them over time, thought about quality and comfort, and made a well thought out decision to purchase premium undies. Huzzah! You now don’t have to make decisions about underwear for the next 5-10 years.

A few months later, you catch a whiff of some internet talk about a new premium brand. Premium Brand B. Curious, you Google “Premium Brand A” vs. “Premium Brand B”. Just curious, you say to yourself. You find that the Internet has decided Premium Brand B is better than Premium Brand A. Ah well, you say to yourself. You were just curious, anyway. You’ve got underwear already. You don’t need to upgrade. But I wonder how they feel. So, you decide to order just one. Just curious, you again say to yourself. You’re not going to overhaul your underwear setup, you just want to give these new ones a try.

A week later, Premium Brand B briefs arrive at your door. You give them a try and compare. Lo and behold, the internet was wrong: Premium Brand B unquestionably is not better than your good ole’ Premium Brand A. You spent an extra $15 on this experiment, but you can always use an extra, you suppose.

Two years later, a popular media site posts a huge comparison of 15 different premium briefs. Your trusty Premium Brand A does well, but Premium Brand C comes out on top. Like you did with Premium Brand B, you buy one, just to try. And voila, this time, the internet was right: Premium Brand C clearly is better than your good ole’ Premium Brand A.

At this point, you’re now in a small bind. You have a set of Premium Brand A briefs that was supposed to be your go-to for the next decade. You don’t really need an upgrade, and maybe you can easily shrug off Premium Brand C. On the other hand, maybe you think about living with Premium Brand A for 10 years, knowing all the while that there was something better. Maybe that nags you for a while. So, you do it. You wait for a decent sale, and you upgrade your set. Another $150. But at least now you won’t live for 10 years thinking what could’ve been.

So where are you now? $150 for your initial set of Premium Brand A briefs. $15 to try Premium Brand B. Another $150 to upgrade your set to Premium Brand C. You now have $315 of underwear.

It’s not hard for this sort of thing to repeat itself. It’s too easy to ditch the 5-10 year plan again, for yet another holy grail pair of underpants that eventually comes into the fray. And if you’re not careful, you may reach a point where you one day wake up and say “I just realized I own $500 of underwear.”

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